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Volume 72, Issue 136, Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sports

Cougars' priority is keeping streak alive

Joseph will toe the rubber against Roadrunners 
still in search of his first victory

by RONNIE TURNER
The Daily Cougar

The Cougars marched into New Orleans this weekend and left town with a monumental achievement -- a solid three-game series sweep of Conference USA rival Tulane, which entered the weekend ranked No. 23 in the Baseball America Top 25 poll.

In doing so, Houston (22-17, 9-3 C-USA) took over sole possession of second place in C-USA and put more distance between itself and third-place Memphis. 

More importantly, the Cougars issued a statement to the rest of the league, one that is sure to serve notice that this team isn't ready to give up on its postseason aspirations.

But the road to an NCAA Regional appearance doesn't end with Tulane. 

Each of Houston's 16 remaining games has a significant level of important attached to it, and the Cougars can't afford to look past any opponent. 

That's why the team has its focus set on its meeting with Texas-San Antonio at 7 p.m. tonight at Riverside Park in Victoria.

"(Sweeping Tulane) was really a big boost for our team, and hopefully we can carry this momentum when we head down to Victoria," UH head coach Rayner Noble said.

UTSA (24-17, 14-4 Southland Conference) could give the Cougars some trouble. 

The Roadrunners, one of the better teams in the SLC, are tied with Texas State for first place in the West Division after dropping two of three games at Stephen F. Austin this weekend.

UTSA and Houston split their two earlier meetings this season. The Cougars won the first matchup 12-10 on Feb. 22 in the opening game of the Southwest Diamond Classic in Frisco before dropping a 4-3 decision Feb. 27 in San Antonio.

If the Cougars can pitch well and produce clutch hits like they did against Tulane, then they should fare well against UT-San Antonio. One of the primary reasons for their success this weekend was their ability to generate offense through the use of efficient small-ball tactics, particularly late in games.

"I don't think we failed on any sacrifice bunts the entire weekend," Noble said. "Those are the things that you have to be able to do to win big ballgames."

Houston will send freshman Donnie Joseph (0-1, 7.04 ERA) to the mound to start tonight's game. 

The left-hander is still searching for his first collegiate victory.

In his last outing against Texas A&M on April 17, Joseph left a few pitches up in the strike zone, and the Aggies made him pay for it. 

He exited the game after going only 2.1 innings and allowing six runs (five earned) on eight hits and three walks. 

The Cougars never recovered from this, losing the game 8-3.

Houston certainly hopes Joseph can get things turned around against UTSA, which is hitting .306 as a team. In addition, the Roadrunners have six players hitting over .300, led by junior first baseman Trent Lockwood (.360).

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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